The government has axed Labour’s plan to provide free personal care to about 110,000 more people in England, despite the measure already being on the statute books.
Care services minister Paul Burstow said today that the government would not implement the Personal Care at Home Act 2010’s central provision, to give people with high needs free personal care at home.
The plans, which the last government estimated would cost £540m a year, drew criticism for being under-costed after they were announced in late 2009. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services estimated that the total cost could be almost double the former government’s estimates.
Andrew Cozens, the Local Government Association’s strategic lead for adult social care, welcomed today’s decision, adding: “It’s a sensible conclusion for something that would have created resource problems for local government in the way it was constructed.”
However, Carers UK, which had supported the plan, said it was disappointed it would not be implemented.
The decision follows the government’s promise today to establish a commission on long-term care funding, which would report within a year.
Richard Humphries, senior fellow at The Kings Fund, said it was always difficult see how free personal care at home fitted with a long-term reform agenda, as the previous Labour government had claimed.
He added: “I always thought that money should be used as a down payment on reform of the care system. It would signal a real intention to put more money into it.”
Both the Liberal Democrats and the Tories voiced opposition to the Personal Care at Home Act 2010 when it was passing through parliament.
Following an amendment forced by the House of Lords, the act cannot be brought into force without a further vote in both Houses of Parliament.
The act also included a measure to extend access to reablement services to support people to regain independence, at an estimated cost of £130m a year. Burstow said it would “consider what more can be done on reablement in the light of available resources”.
He also promised to consider increased investment in carers’ breaks, but stopped short of endorsing Lib Dems proposals to divert resources from the Personal Care at Home Act into providing a week’s break a year for all full-time carers.
Carers UK’s director of policy and public affairs, Emily Holzhausen, said: “It is not yet clear what the new government intends to do with this money, but it is critical that it is invested in providing additional support to carers that helps them to stay in work, take a break from caring and look after their own health – things with most people take for granted.”